Finding wifi on the move

During my recent trip to London, I decided that I’d try and stay online as much as possible, whilst at the same time not paying for (or in fact stealing) an internet connection. It was actually a lot easier than I thought, and made me realise that if I lived in London I’d not really need a 3G dongle or an internet capable phone in order to conduct my online life on the move.

What I found out was largely as follows:

The hotel I was staying in advertised itself as having free wifi on the ground floor. It did, but the signal was no greater than 40%, and as I was on the 7th floor I had to come down to the bar to use it. This was fine, and I used this for my morning and evening email sessions.

There are lots of University buildings in London, some of whom subscribe to the JANET Roaming Service. As I’m a member of a participating University I can use their networks for free. This got me a connection on floor 7 of the hotel twice, and would have been an option in a couple of other places as well.

The rest of the time I generally used The Cloud, mostly in or around Pret A Manger stores. It’s possible to get free wifi in a fair few places (largely pubs and cafes), and my most productive session of the whole trip was the last hour outside Euston station where I got through all my home and work email with a near 100% signal.

So yes, I managed to stay up to date, and maintained Inbox Zero throughout the trip.

What we did on our holidays

Tuesday 19th August, 8:00 PM

The start of the road trip.

We checked into the Premier Inn earlier this evening. It’s a really nice hotel, is close to the airport, and does a really nice steak and ale pie. They have reasonably priced internet access too, but as we have to go to sleep soon and will have to leave by 3:30am then I don’t think it’s really worth it.

Tomorrow we leave for Italy. I’m really looking forward to this trip, and also to spending a week relaxing with my lovely new wife (I don’t think I’ll ever tire of typing that).

Wednesday 20th August, 5:22 AM

I’m sitting in Frankie and Benny’s at Birmingham International Airport, having just had a huge breakfast. We’ve been up since 3am, but so far I feel rested, unlike Steph who had several nightmares and didn’t sleep a great deal. It is times like these that I value my ability to sleep (and wake) at any time of the day.

Still no free wireless access to anything but the airport’s own web site, but that in itself is useful.

Thursday 21st August, 12:00 local time

We’ve now been in Italy over 24 hours, and are both enjoying it greatly. We arrived in Verona on time yesterday, and travelled to Peschiera by coach. The apartment we’re staying in is gorgeous, with tiled floors throughout, a large balcony, and most importantly air conditioning. It’s been 35 degrees here for huge portions of yesterday and today, and it’s really good to come back to something a little cooler when we want to eat and sleep.

One downside is that the plug adaptors we were sold in the UK to use on this trip actually don’t work in Italy (we did ask – they lied). I’m running my laptop off batteries at present, so I’m hoping to pick up an adaptor in the next 24 hours.

We opted for self catering so we could properly experience living in Italy. Yesterday we bought huge amounts of ingredients, and have cooked one proper meal and three snack meals already. Food is quite reasonably priced, and wine is very cheap (3 euros for a decent bottle of red), so hopefully we should be able to survive on the money we bought over with us.

I think we’ve finally caught up on sleep now, after only getting a few hours the night before. Both Steph and I woke around 9, so I think we managed 11 hours each yesterday.

Plans for the next few days involve exploring Peschiera town centre later, Verona all day Sunday and Venice on Monday. We’ve taken a few photographs already, and will probably take lots more over the next few days. One thing we have photographed lots already is the cute lizards that live near where we are staying. They are everywhere and are fascinating to watch.

I will hopefully write more when I have a reliable power supply for my laptop.

Thursday 21st August, 23:00 local time

Talking of which, the hotel loaned us an adaptor, so we can now charge the EeePC, DS Lite, and various other bits of tech we have with us.

Tonight we went into Peschiera for pizza, red wine, and an evening of soaking up the atmosphere when it was under 35 degrees (also known as dark). Both food and wine were good, and the whole meal cost under 25 euros, which is a lot less than it would cost in the UK. We’ve also booked onto a wine tour on Saturday as well as the Verona and Venice trips.

Friday 22nd August, 17:32 local time

Today we travelled by boat to the town of Bardolino, which is where a lot of the wine we have drunk this week was made. The boat journey was very pleasant, and an hour after leaving Peschiera we arrived in Bardolino in the blistering heat. Most of our time there was spent having a very long lunch (with coffee and wine), but we did manage a walk along the lakeside which nearly killed us (yes, 35 degrees again today).

We have taken a lot of photographs so far. I’ve backed up the first batch onto my laptop in case we drop the camera in the lake or some other such misdemeanor.

Tonight I plan on cooking either pasta or risotto with the vegetables we have left. I don’t plan on doing a lot more than that until it gets cooler.

We’ve been here three days now, and I’m totally relaxed. This bodes well for the rest of the holiday.

Sunday 24th August, 8:25 local time

Yesterday we went on what was billed as a “wine tour”. It was actually a drive to a castle in the hills, complete with thunder, lightening, and torrential rain. We got to taste 4 local wines, and did get a whole large glass of each, so by the time we finished we were getting rather tipsy, but there was bread, cheese and meat to go with it which at least soaked up some of the wine.

There were lots of British tourist types on the wine tour who were complaining about the rain. They seemed to think it never rains in Italy for some reason, and thought they might catch hypothermia in temperatures warmer than the UK average. I think they may have been mistaken.

Afterwards we went out for dinner, and had pasta dishes and more wine. I think we probably had 9 glasses each over the course of the day so we should probably take it easy today.

We head off to Verona in an hour or so, and then to Venice tomorrow. We have taken over a hundred photographs already, with hopefully many more to come.

Sunday 24th August, 22:38 local time

Today we went to Verona, and then out for a posh restaurant meal. In Verona, we visited:

  • Arena (a large amphitheatre)
  • Casa di Giulietta (the house of Juliette)
  • Tomba di Giulietta (the tomb of Juliette with added Christian art)
  • Museo Lapidario (museum of Greek and Roman stuff)

We also had lunch in a nice cafe.

In the evening we went to a lovely restaurant, and had fish, salad, and amazing wine. We are now drinking more wine back at the apartment, so I might have to rewrite this in the morning, if it ends up looking less than good.

Tuesday 26th August, 9:55 local time

Yesterday we spent the whole day in Venice, visiting Palazzo Ducale (palace of the Doge), seeing the sights, and eating a decent meal of lasagna and fish. My impression of Venice was that everything was overpriced, it was far too commercialised, but it still managed to be beautiful, stunning, and exactly what I hoped it would be. We arrived back just before midnight, drank a couple of glasses of wine, and then collapsed until 9am.

I’ve also transferred the 550 photographs we have taken so far to my laptop. I will post selections on Facebook at some point over the next week.

Tuesday 26th August, 19:33 local time

Today we returned to Bardolino by ferry, and ate the hugest plate of salami and other cooked meat that I have ever seen. The boats were running on “Italian time” today, so it took us ages to get back.

We return home tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting home, but have had an amazing holiday.